Yankees’ Minor League Round-up: Week Four (4/22-4/28)

Another week, a lot of good news and bad news out of the farm system. Because of some more injuries to the big club, the Yankees called up catcher Austin Romine and LHP Vidal Nuno, both playing well to start the season. Let’s see how everyone else did:

Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre:
2B/1B Corban Joseph: 3-21, 2 R, 2 2B, 2 BB, 9 K
OF Thomas Neal: 3-8, 4 R, 3 2B, 2 RBI
OF Zoilo Almonte: 3-14, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 5 K
3B David Adams: 3-10, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K
C Austin Romine: 2-12, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 K
OF Melky Mesa: 3-18, 2 R, 6 K
RHP Chris Bootcheck: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 K
RHP Dellin Betances: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 7 K
RHP Mark Montgomery: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 1 K
RHP Chien-Ming Wang: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 WP
RHP Brett Marshall: 5.1 IP, 4, 2 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 7 K
 
 
Double-A Trenton:
OF Ramon Flores: 5-23, 3 R, 2 RBI, 6 BB, 6 K
2B Jose Pirela: 6-25, 3 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K
OF Tyler Austin: 6-21, 5 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 1 K
C JR Murphy: 3-14, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 4 BB, 2 K
1B Kyle Roller: 7-23, 3 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 6 K
OF Slade Heathcott: 1-15, 2 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 5 K
3B Rob Segedin: 3-8, 1 R, 2 2B, 4 RBI
DH Neil Medchill: 3-13, 2 R, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 7 K
RHP Graham Stoneburner: 4 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 3 K
RHP Jose Ramirez: 4.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K
RHP Zach Nuding: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K
 
 
High Single-A Tampa:
OF Mason Williams: 4-21, 3 R, 2 BB, 2 K
2B Robert Refsnyder: 10-23, 5 R, 4 2B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 4 BB, 1 K
OF Ben Gamel: 2-19, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 4 BB, 7 K
C Gary Sanchez: 4-20, 2 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K
RHP Shane Black: 6 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 7 K
RHP Bryan Mitchell: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 4 K, 1 HR
RHP Corey Black: 5 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K
 
 
Single-A Charleston:
OF Jake Cave: 9-26, 5 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 6 K
SS Cito Culver: 6-23, 5 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 5 BB, 6 K
1B Gregory Bird: 6-22, 3 R, 1 2B, 5 RBI, 3 BB, 6 K
3B Dante Bichette, Jr: 6-23, 3 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 7 K
C Peter O’Brien: 3-13, 2 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K
2B Claudio Custodio: 7-15, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 1 K
RHP Rafael DePaula: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 HR
RHP Gabriel Encinas: 12 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 8 K
 
 
Guys to watch:
2B Robert Refsnyder: The most outstanding player in the College World Series for Arizona last year, he has raked to start the year, earning a promotion from Charleston to Tampa, where he continues to hit. He played RF in college but the Yankees drafted him as a 2B. He can also play 3B because of his athleticism and strong arm. He could become one of the team’s best prospects if he keeps it up.
 
C J.R. Murphy: With Romine getting the call to the big club, there is an opening at Triple-A SWB at catcher. I doubt it’ll happen so soon, but if Romine is still with the big league club for a while and Murphy continues to hit, he could move on up.
OF Jake Cave: 6th round pick out of high school in the 2011 draft but missed the entire 2012 season. He’s gotten off to a strong start in Charleston.
 
RHP Rafael DePaula: Finally getting to pitch after visa trouble, he’s been monstrous to start the year: 39 strikeouts in 22.1 innings. He has some of the best stuff in the system. It just sucks that he lost some years. He’s only 22, and he would’ve been close by now if it weren’t for the visa and ID trouble.
 
RHP Jose Ramirez: Fresh off the DL, he went right at batters in his first appearance of the year, which was also his debut in Double-A. 6 Ks and only 1 BB and 2 hits in a 4 IP save.
 
3B David Adams and 2B Corban Joseph: Both have wielded hot bats so far this year. If the injuries continue, and they may have with Kevin Youkilis hurting with a bad back that also hurt him last year, there’s a possibility they could get the call.
 
 
Up-coming week:
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre has to make up four games they lost this weekend in the next two days. Two double headers in Charlotte. They then play a four game series in Gwinnett starting Thursday
 
Trenton wraps up its homestead with a 3 game series against New Hampshire. Then they play a 3 game series in Richmond.
Tampa wraps up its series vs St. Lucie, plays a home and home and home against Clearwater, and begins a series in Fort Myers.
 
Charleston plays one more vs. Kannapolis, plays three at Lakewood and then a few at Delmarva.

New York Knicks @ Boston Celtics, Game 4 Preview

New York Knicks @ Boston Celtics, Game 4

Location: TD Garden, Boston, MA

Time: 1:00PM on ABC

 

Probable Starting Lineups (With Series Statistics)

New York

PG Raymond Felton (14.7 PPG, 6.0 APG, 4.3 RPG, 1.67 STLPG, .476 FG%)

SG Pablo Prigioni (5.0 PPG, 3.0 APG, 3.0 STLPG, .429 FG%, .500 3P%)

SF Iman Shumpert (4.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.0 APG, .308 FG%, .500 3P%)

PF Carmelo Anthony (32.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.67 STLPG, .462 FG%, .500 3P%, .941 FT%)

C Tyson Chandler (3.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, .500 FG%)

Boston

PG Jason Terry (7.7 PPG, 1.7 APG, .318 FG%, .375 3P%)

SG Avery Bradley (7.7 PPG, 2.0 APG, 2.0 TOPG, .435 FG%, .200 3P%)

SF Paul Pierce (18.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 6.0 APG, 5.3 TOPG, .408 FG%, .125 3P%, .875 FT%)

PF Jeff Green (19.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.7 TOPG, .442 FG%, .455 3P%, .824 FT%)

C Kevin Garnett (10.7 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 4.0 FPG, .382 FG%, 6-6 FTA)

 

Key Bench Players (With Series Statistics)

New York

PG Jason Kidd (3.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.67 STLPG, .375 3P% in 28.0 MINPG)

SG J.R. Smith- Suspended for Game 4 (16.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG, .435 FG%, .313 3P% in 30.7 MINPG)

SF Chris Copeland (0-5 FGA, 0-3 FTA in 24 total minutes)

SF Steve Novak (4-6 FGA, 2-4 3PA, 10 points in 31 total minutes)

PF Kenyon Martin (6.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.3 BLKPG in 22.7 MINPG)

Boston

PF Brandon Bass (4.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG, .385 FG%, 3-4 FTA in 30.0 MINPG)

SG Jordan Crawford (5.0 PPG, 6-16 FGA, 2-7 3PA in 16.3 MINPG)

SG Courtney Lee (6 points, 1-4 FGA, 4-4 FTA in 11.7 MINPG)

 

Injury Report:

New York: PF/C Amar’e Stoudemire (OUT)

Boston: PG Rajon Rondo (OUT)

 

Keys to the Game:

1. No J.R., no problem?: Sixth-Man of the Year J.R. Smith has been suspended by the NBA for today’s game for the elbow jab he did on Jason Terry in Game 3 on Friday. Smith received a Flagrant 2 and an ejection for that play so it was probably expected. It’s a big loss on offense, but with him gone, other bench players need to step up to sweep the leg.

2. Unleash the Cope: With Smith gone for Game 4, look for Mike Woodson to play 29 year old rookie Chris Copeland more. When given the chance, Copeland has been able to step in for Carmelo Anthony and J.R. when needed. In the last three games of the regular season he scored 85 points on 34 of 66 shooting. I think he can do something like that and given Melo a break as the Knicks finish off the Celtics.

3. Three-point barrage: The Knicks only shot 44 three-point attempts in the first two games in New York, hitting 16 (36.4%) In Boston, they hit 11 of 27 three’s (40.7%). They were able to hit some insanely bad and well-defended shots. They really have yet to go off on the Celtics like they’re capable of. One has to wonder when they will and if they do, God help the other team. When New York keeps hitting three after three, they are very difficult to beat. Boston and Indiana don’t want to go into a shoot-out with them.

4. Get Tyson going: Tyson Chandler hasn’t been much of a factor in this series, playing 24.0 minutes on average each game. He missed 16 of the final 20 games of the year, so it’s probably expected. Luckily Kenyon Martin has filled in for him very well. If both are going, Boston won’t have an answer and they’ll be a problem for Atlanta or Indiana in the 2nd round.

 

Prediction: I really can’t see the Celtics coming back to win this series, let alone win this game. With the crowd, they’ll be in it early but even without J.R. Smith, the Knicks should have no trouble finishing off Boston. Knicks 91 Celtics 79.

Reports of the New York Yankees’ demise have so far been greatly exaggerated

Going into the season, there were so many predictions of doom and gloom for the New York Yankees. Some of them were warranted, given all the injuries and age on this squad and a disastrous offseason. Some were just ridiculous, completely ignoring the strengths the Bronx Bombers still had.

They were ready to explode after a 1-4 start in which they looked completely anemic in every way. But after a 13-5 stretch since, they’re starting to calm a bit.

That’s right. Your New York Yankees are 14-9, only 2.5 games behind the also surprising Red Sox for first in the AL East. How has it happened?

Quite simple: Pitching, pitching and more pitching: The Yankees’ staff has a 3.91 ERA. Not elite, but good enough to keep them in ballgames. CC Sabathia, with his best stuff and velocity still yet to come, has been steady with a 4-2 record and 3.35 ERA.

Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda have been spectacular, both 3-1 with ERA+’s over 140. They are too invaluable to this team and the Yankees need to be able to keep them healthy and fresh.

Mariano Rivera is back and as good and consistent as ever. He’s a perfect 8 for 8 in save opportunities, surrendering just two runs in nine appearances. Outside of one poor outing, set-up man and escape artist David Robertson has been solid, eight strikeouts and just two walks in 8.2 IP.

What has also gotten the Yankees going is the offense. Robinson Cano has played like an early frontrunner for MVP, posting a .326/.379/.632/1.010 line with seven homers and 17 RBIs.

But what’s been really shocking is the contributions from Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner. After hitting .222 in his previous two seasons in Anaheim, Wells is hitting .309 with a .954 OPS. The man they call “Pronk” is tearing the cover off the ball, hitting .309 and posting a monster .727 slugging % (1.160 OPS).

Of course, there still remains plenty of room for improvement and some more concerns. None more than the ever continuing injuries. With Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, and Mark Teixeira all still out with no clear time-tables with either of them, the Yankees will need to stick with the replacement guys they have right now.

It doesn’t help when there have been more injuries. Kevin Youkilis has been bothered by a bad back, which it all of last year. Francisco Cervelli broke his hand on April 26th and will be out for six weeks. Very unfortunate considering how well he was played as the Yankees’ starting catcher.

Another concern right now is the team’s depth in all facets, especially against LHP and in the backend of the rotation and bullpen. The Yankees hit just .217 with a .631 OPS against lefties, both second worst in the AL. Brett Gardner and Ichiro have struggled at the dish so far, but they should get the benefit of the doubt. Give them time and I’m sure they’ll start to play better.

Probably more to do with injuries and the amount of left-handed bats in the lineup, but the struggles versus lefties is a serious problem right now. For some reason, Joe Girardi keeps batting Ben Francisco in the middle of the order against LHP, and he has three hits in 29 at-bats.

The back-end of the rotation and bullpen has also been poor. Phil Hughes struggled in his first two starts after being rushed back from a back injury but has pitched better in his last two: four runs in 14 innings. Ivan Nova has been totally ineffective and has already found himself on the DL due to inflammation in his arm.

Despite deceiving ERA’s, Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan has been inefficient: too many baserunners and blown leads. Chamberlain was forced to save a one run lead on April 27th and barely escaped. Logan has come in and twice has blown a lead via inherited runners. Not good for somebody who was the only LOOGY in the pen.

But hey, if you’re a Yankees fan, you cannot help but be pleased with the success they’ve been able to have thus far, considering all the apocalyptic predictions by fan and pundit alike. Look at the Blue Jays, whom everyone predicted to win it all. 9-16 and the Yankees have already taken 5 of 6 from them.

I think it’s encouraging that the Yankees still have room for improvement. It just remains to be seen whether it will happen or things will simply get worse. But hey, that’s why it is a long season with 162 games. Nothing’s decided yet; we got a LONG way to go. But right now the Yankees are trending upward.

New York Knicks @ Boston Celtics, Game 3

New York Knicks @ Boston Celtics, Game 3

Location: TD Garden, Boston, MA

Time: 8:00PM on ESPN/MSG

 

Probable Starting Lineups (With Series Statistics)

New York

PG Raymond Felton (14.5 PPG, 4.0 APG, 5.5 RPG, 1.5 STLPG, .464 FG%, .200 3P%)

SG Pablo Prigioni (0-1, 1 point, 5 assists, 1 steal in 18 minutes in Game 2)

SF Iman Shumpert (4.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, .375 FG%, .600 3P%

PF Carmelo Anthony (35.0 PPG, 5.0 APG, 2.0 STLPG, .453 FG%, .600 3P%, .941 FT%)

C Tyson Chandler (5.0 RPG, 1-4 FGA, 3 points)

Boston

PG Avery Bradley (10.5 PPG, 3.0 APG, 1.5 STLPG, 2.5 TOPG, .474 FG%, 1-3 3PA)

SG Paul Pierce (19.5 PPG, 6.5 APG, 5.5 RPG, 5.5 TOPG, .412 FG%, 2-12 3PA)

SF Jeff Green (18.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.0 TOPG, .423 FG%, 3-6 3PA, 11-13 FTA)

PF Brandon Bass (5.0 PPG, 10.0 RPG, .500 FG%, 2-2 FTA)

C Kevin Garnett (10.0 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 5.0 PFPG, .381 FG%, 4-4 FTA)

 

Key Bench Players (With Series Statistics)

New York:

PG Jason Kidd (5.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 2.5 STLPG, 29.0 MINPG)

SG J.R. Smith (17.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, .412 FG%, .273 3P% in 34.0 MINPG)

PF Kenyon Martin (6.5 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 3.0 BLKPG, .500 FG%)

Boston:

SG Jason Terry (4.5 PPG, 1.5 APG, 3-13 FGA, 3-11 3PA in 27.0 MINPG)

SG Courtney Lee (0-2 FGA, 4 points in 12.0 MINPG)

SG Jordan Crawford (4-11 FGA, 1-5 3PA, 5.5 PPG in 18.0 MINPG)

 

Injury Report

New York: PG Pablo Prigioni (Probable), PF/C Amar’e Stoudemire (OUT)

Boston: PG Rajon Rondo (OUT)

 

Keys to the Game:

1. Home-cooking: The Celtics are playing in their first home game since the Boston Marathon bombings. No doubt the crowd is going to be a factor. On the road, the Celtics were just 14-27 this year. At the TD Garden, they are 27-13. The Knicks are 23-18 on the road and won both games in Boston this year. The Knicks will need to take the crowd out of it early.

2. Get off to a good start: In each of the first two games of the series, the Celtics lead at half-time. The Knicks held them to a total of 48 points in both second halves. Here in Boston, they’ll have to get off to a good start, because this crowd will play a role

3. Getting the big men going: Kevin Garnett has struggled so far in this series, 8 of 21 from the field and committed five personal fouls in both games. He was limited to just 24 minutes in Game 2 on Tuesday. For the Knicks, Tyson Chandler hasn’t been much of a factor, playing no more than 22 minutes in each game and picking up 10 total rebounds. He’s probably been rusty after missing a ton of time at the end of the year, but they need him to play better. In his place, Kenyon Martin has been huge, getting easy feeds and playing outstanding defense. Him and Chandler can take out KG again and bury the Celtics. 

4. Breaking through with the 3: The Knicks have just shot only 44 total three-pointer attempts in the first two games. Normally they average almost 29 per game. If the Knicks start shooting more and start hitting them consistently, it’s good night for Boston

 

Prediction: I picked the Knicks to win in 5, and I thought the Celtics would take one at home. There’s going to be a ton of energy in the TD Garden to start off the game with it being their first home game since the bombings on April 15th. I think the Knicks pull it off, but it’ll be closer this time. Nobody on the Celtics will stop Carmelo Anthony. 

Brooklyn Nets @ Chicago Bulls, Game 3 Preview

Brooklyn Nets @ Chicago Bulls, Game 3

Location: United Center, Chicago, IL

Time: 8:30PM on NBA TV/My9

 

Probable Starting Lineups (With Series Stats Thru Two Games)

Brooklyn:

PG Deron Williams (15.0 PPG, 8.5 APG, 2.0 SPG, .417 FG%, .250 3P%, .889 FT%)

SG Joe Johnson (16.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 4.0 APG, .419 FG%, .417 3P%, 1.000 FT%)

SF Gerald Wallace (8.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, .429 FG%, .250 3P%, .600 FT%)

PF Reggie Evans (4.5 PPG, 10.5 RPG, .667 FG%, .500 FT%)

C Brook Lopez (21.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.0 BLKPG, .483 FG%, .933 FT%)

Chicago:

PG Kirk Hinrich (7.5 PPG, 3.5 APG, 1.5 STLPG, .308 FG%, .500 3P%, .556 FT%)

SG Jimmy Butler (9.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.5 BLKPG, .500 FG%)

SF Luol Deng (10.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.5 APG, .357 FG%)

PF Carlos Boozer (19.0 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, .563 FG%)

C Joakim Noah (7.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.5 BLKPG, .429 FG%)

 

Key Bench Players:

Brooklyn:

PG C.J. Watson (12.0 PPG, 3.0 APG, .588 FG%, .400 3P% in in 24.5 MINPG)

C Andray Blatche (10.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, .500 FG% in 20.0 MINPG)

PF Kris Humphries (5.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, .444 FG%, 1.000 FT% in 13.0 MINPG)

SF Keith Bogans (0.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, in 11.5 MINPG

Chicago:

PG Nate Robinson (14.0 PPG, 1.5 APG, 1.0 STLPG, .522 FG% in 23.0 MINPG

PF Taj Gibson (7.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, .750 FG% in 17.0 MPG)

SG Marco Bellinelli (10.5 PPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 STLPG, .467 FG%, .857 FT% in 15.5 MINPG)

C Nazr Mohammed (4.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.00 BLKPG, .667 FG% in 12.0 MINPG)

 

Injury Report:

Brooklyn: None

Chicago: PG Derrick Rose (OUT), Joakim Noah (Probable)

Keys to the Game:

1. Deron Williams vs. Bulls’ Defense: In Game 1, Deron Williams scored 22 points (9-15 shooting) and collected 7 assists and 3 steals as the Nets torched the Bulls and won 106-89. In Game 2, Kirk Hinrich successfully guarded Williams and he shot just 1-9 from the field despite getting 10 assists. D-Will has played brilliant basketball since the Nets replaced Avery Johnson with P.R. Carlesimo as coach, averaging 20.2 PPG on .461 shooting (.416 from 3) and 7.7 APG in his last 50 games as the Nets went 35-19 over that span. Easily the best player in the series, as he goes, so do the Brooklyn Nets

2. Size matters: Both the Bulls and the Nets have elite defenses, capable of shutting down most opponents. Both teams owe it to their size. Center Joakim Noah finished 4th in the Defensive Player of the Year voting and his health was the literal difference between the first two games in this series. The Nets’ 7-footer Brook Lopez enjoyed a breakout season for Brooklyn, putting up a whopping 24.81 player efficiency rating, 5th best in the NBA. The Bulls also have two other solid big men in Carlos Boozer and Nazr Mohammed, but the Nets may have a little bit more depth behind Lopez: Reggie Evans with his 11.1 RPG and Andray Blatche, who seems to have left his bad personality in Washington. The size may be the key to the series in general: Defense, rebounding, inside scoring etc. The Nets may have a bit more of the offense and rebounding than the Bulls

3. Health: The Bulls have been the most banged up team in the NBA. Derrick Rose hasn’t played a game since Game 1 of last year’s playoffs, but right now their biggest concern is Joakim Noah. He is still battling a foot injury that limited him to 13 minutes in Game 1. Game 2 was a different story, as he played 25 minutes and put in 11 points and 10 rebounds and provided some big grinding plays to help the Bulls hang on to tie the series. Noah is again limited but may be able to play another 20-25 minutes, and that might be enough.
Prediction: Back in sweet home Chicago, I think the Bulls can grind out another win, but I think this whole series will be in tight, as I previously picked the Bulls in six. I’m sticking with that.

How Much Room for Error Do the New York Yankees’ Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova Have?

With the amount of age and injuries the New York Yankees have suffered the last few months on offense, it seemed that they had to become more reliant on old school baseball- defense, bunting, base-stealing and of course, pitching – rather than their typical and traditional high octane power approach. 

In fact, going into the 2013 season, it looked as if pitching would indeed be their calling card. So far, it’s been good enough to get the Yankees to an 11-8 start. CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda have all delivered the innings and quality pitching and David Robertson and Mariano Rivera have been effective in closing out victories. 

The only concerns right now for the pitching staff is the back-end of the rotation, which is currently composed of Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova. So far, both have struggled in the early going. 

After winning 18 games in his first full year as a starting in 2010, Hughes has been up and down the last couple of years. In 2011, he lost his velocity for a while and ended up missing a couple of months due to a dead arm. Last year he rebounded after some inconsistencies to win 16 games and pitch over 190 innings, despite giving up 35 home runs. 

In Spring Training, Hughes suffered a bad back and had to start the year rehabbing. He was then brought back up quickly in the first week of the year and made his first start in Detroit.

After struggling in his first two starts, he has put up back to back quality outings, just two runs in seven innings in both starts. In his start against Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, he topped averaged about 93 mph with his four-seam fastball, topping out at 94.6, according toBrooks Baseball’s PitchFx Tool. His slider was also extremely effective. 

Given the injury, the Yankees probably see Hughes’ first two starts as a mulligan, and they should be patient with him. He’s rewarded them in his last two outings, and they would like to see him continue to improve as the season goes on.

On the other end, Ivan Nova has to be on a short leash, unlike Hughes. After winning 16 games and stepping up as the Yankees’ No. 2 starter at the end of his rookie year in 2011, Nova has really struggled. He had a 7.05 ERA in 11 starts in the second half last year and gave up a total of 28 homers. 

A big reason for his struggles is his attempts to pound the strike zone. In 2011, his K/9 was only 5.3, 98 strikeouts in over 165 innings. In the last two seasons he’s upped it to 8.2 K/9, 169 K in 185 IP. In response to this, however, he’s been getting hit – hard. In 31 starts in the last two years he’s given up 10.4 hits per nine innings.

According to FanGraphs, batters have hit more line-drives (28.6% this year) and flyballs (32.4% last year) off Nova, often resulting in home runs and extra base hits. In fact, Nova game up the most extra base hits in baseball last year.

So far this year, Nova has pitched three starts, only getting as far as the fifth inning each time (couldn’t get an out in the sixth on Sunday). In just 14.2 IP, he’s given up 19 hits and eight walks. 

Obviously, he AND Hughes have to get better or they could find themselves in Triple-A, as the Yankees have some reinforcements waiting. 

One guy the Yankees could bring up now is LHP Vidal Nuno. He’s very versatile, making 21 starts and 10 relief appearances last year, going 10-6 with a 2.54 ERA with a 3.82 K/BB ratio. So far this year, he’s off to a terrific start, allowing just four runs on 13 hits in 23.1 IP and striking out 26 batters and walking only two. He also won International League Pitcher of the Week for last week. 

Nuno is a guy the Yankees could use right now. He has plenty of experience coming out of the bullpen, so he’d be a very good left-handed hitter specialist, but if Nova continues to struggle, Joe Girardi can easily replace him with Nuno. 

Another guy that could become rotation help is Michael Pineda, the fireballer whom the Yankees received for Jesus Montero last January and subsequently missed all of 2012. Well, it seems like he’s on his way back According to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, he already threw a simulated inning, and he apparently hit low 90s.

Pineda should be ready sometime in the summer, which should be enough time to see what Nova and Hughes really have to offer and if replacements have to be made. Pineda has some excellent stuff when he’s healthy and would be a boost to the rotation if he’s healthy and replaces Nova/Hughes if they continue to stink it up.

Right now the Yankees have time, so they can’t panic yet, and they still have enough depth to be safe.